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Master of Fine Arts Program

  • MFA candidates teaching at UW Dance
    UW Dance offers a Master of Fine Arts degree that prepares experienced dancers for university teaching. Images by Michael B Maine


Please see the “Graduate Admissions” section of this site.

About The Dance M.F.A.

The University of Washington Department of Dance offers a Master of Fine Arts degree that prepares experienced dance artists for careers in higher education. During the two-year intensive program, M.F.A. candidates are supported in: developing  a research profile, deepening their creative practice, and translating  embodied knowledge into an informed teaching practice. M.F.A. candidates receive a tuition waiver and earn a monthly stipend in exchange for working as a Teaching Assistant and/or Research Assistant in the Department of Dance.

Who Should Apply?

Candidates with at least eight years of professional experience in any dance genre are invited to apply. The Department has been actively engaged in curricular and staffing changes to de-center Western concert dance and develop a more robust Afro-diasporic and social dance focus, alongside our offerings in contemporary modern and ballet. (See Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion). We welcome applicants from any professional dance background, including African dance, hip hop, street styles, social dance, ballet, contemporary, modern, and others.

Teach & Study at the University

Development of each student's teaching is supported through coursework, mentorship, and practical teaching experience. Graduate students generally teach two movement practice courses per quarter and become a key part of our faculty, having opportunities to develop courses in their areas of expertise. 

Dance faculty work with M.F.A. candidates to develop an individualized course of study. Seminars taken in the first year provide the opportunity to: investigate the relationship of dance to higher education, explore individual and collaborative art-making, engage in rigorous scholarship that contributes new areas of knowledge to the field of dance studies, and learn the practical tools to apply for and thrive in academic faculty positions. 

Performance & Choreography Opportunities with the Chamber Dance Company

Graduate students also perform annually with The Chamber Dance Company (CDC), the resident contemporary dance company of the University of Washington. In the first year, students learn repertory from nationally renowned choreographers and perform on the world-class Katharyn Alvord Gerlich Theater. Recent choreographers have included Camille A Brown, Doug Varone, David Roussève, Robert Moses, and Crystal Pite. During the second year, graduate students have the opportunity to create fully-produced new works as a director, collaborator, or performer with mentorship and support from the Artistic Director.

Interdisciplinary Study

Interdisciplinary study is a foundation of the M.F.A. curriculum. Graduate students complete courses in other disciplines that support the development and teaching of their Masters Project—an upper division academic course offered during year two. As a leading research institution, the University of Washington provides a fertile environment for inquiry into many fields,  including drama; gender, women and sexuality studies; ethnic studies; digital art and experimental media ; visual art; history;  and many more. 

Alumni Success

Since the inception of the degree in 1990, graduates have achieved immense success in the fields of education, performance, choreography, administration and production. Graduates have been recipients of prestigious grants and awards including a National Dance Project Grant and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Alumni have secured positions at numerous public and private institutions of higher learning, including: Pomona College, Scripps College, University of Iowa, University of Southern California, Weber State University, University of Utah, Sonoma State University, Bucknell College, Bates College, University of South Florida, Texas Women’s University, George Mason University, Bryn Mawr, Cornish College for the Arts, University of Nebraska, University of Washington, University of Western Washington, Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts, the Northwest School and the Pacific Northwest Ballet.


For any questions about the M.F.A. program or the application process, please contact our staff Academic Advisor for assistance.

Alumni Testimonials 

I am beyond enthusiastic about the University of Washington’s M.F.A. Dance program! It’s a place of thoughtful praxis and career expansion. I was teaching while learning about teaching, creating art through syllabi, dancing full-on and connecting deeply with my cohort, and connecting with students, from all over the world, making meaning through transformative embodied art— and that was just the first year. All the while taking courses that fulfilled my interests as they inevitably intersect with my creative scholarship! The program is deeply insightful, constructively challenging, and filled with wonderful artsy folx that understand the journey from artist to scholar, primarily because they promote no distinction between the two.

- Brian J. Evans, class of 2020, Assistant Professor of Dance at Bates College, Mellon Diversity and Faculty Renewal Postdoctoral Fellow

The UW grad program provided the perfect bridge between my performing career in dance and my current life in academia. It led to lasting personal and professional relationships that continue to buoy my creative and scholarly work. The program is the best of all worlds: you're part of a small cohort of experienced professionals, ensuring you'll challenged by your peers and privy to lots of individualized mentorship from the faculty - but at the same time, you're embedded in a large research institution with all of its accompanying benefits, including access to world-class scholars in fields outside dance. I cannot recommend this program any more highly - attending grad school at UW was the best decision I ever made.

- Adele Nickel, class of 2019, Assistant Professor at Sam Houston State University

The University of Washington’s M.F.A. program in dance provided me an incredibly stimulating and inspiring two years of educational investment in myself and my learning. Its comprehensive yet individualized plan of study directly addressed broad and substantial aspects of higher education. Not only was I challenged as an educator, artist, and researcher during my tenure, but I was also supported and mentored to define my own voice and purpose in the field. I emerged from UW with a degree and a confidence that has solidly supported my current career in the domains of dance and education. I can’t say emphatically enough how exceptional this graduate program is.

-Natalie Desch, class of 2013, Associate Professor, University of Utah

My time in the UW Dance M.F.A. program was illuminating and transformative. I recommend it to all professional dancers looking to further their education. The degree helped me get a tenure track job, and more importantly, the education continues to inform my creative work, my world view, and my understanding of self/community.

-Catherine Cabeen, class of 2009, dancer, choreographer, Associate Professor of Dance at Marymount Manhattan College, teaching artist for the Bill T Jones/Arnie Zane Company


During the two-year program, a student will be expected to enroll full-time (minimum of 10 credits/quarter). A student must complete at least 71 credits, 46 of which are in required courses, in order to earn the degree.

Required Coursework For All M.F.A. Candidates:

DANCE 510 Chamber Dance Production (12 credits)

Study of dance production in a university environment. Includes rehearsal and performance of Chamber Dance Company repertoire. 

DANCE 515 Dance Research Methods (3 credits)

Seminar in problem identification and definition, theory development and research design. Practice in writing for dance journals. 

DANCE 516 Dance Research Methods (4 credits)

Focuses on designing an original research project, conducting research, and writing a scholarly paper suitable for publication in a juried journal or conference presentation. 

DANCE 520 Dance in Higher Education (3 credits)

Readings, discussion, observation, and writing related to  dance in higher education, including  influential learning theories. Readings include Duckworth, Dewey, H'Doubler, hooks, Dubois.  

DANCE 521 Dance Administration (3 credits)

Readings and discussions relating to dance administration in the university setting. Topics include: curricular development, academic advising, personnel issues, faculty searches and issues related to dance as a performing art within the university structure. 

DANCE 530 Graduate Dance Composition (3 credits)

A lab in dancemaking, including practice, critical response, and collaborative artmaking. 

DANCE 531 MFA Concert Production (6 credits)

Graduate students create original choreography in collaboration with undergraduate dance students, culminating in a public performance in the annual MFA Concert. 

DANCE 595 Master's Project (3 credits)

Development and teaching of an academic course in an area of specialization. The area of specialization must be supported with a minimum of 20 credits in related elective coursework.